Blurred - Kissed by Death



The flames closed in, each lick of heat a tick of the clock. My scythe pulsed at my side and warmth spread down my arms and into my fingertips. Six seconds. I could have his soul out in six seconds. Just one swipe of my blade and he could have peace.

Not this one, Anaya. This one is special. No matter what, you will ensure that he stays in his flesh.

Balthazar’s words echoed in my mind and my palms shook, just inches above his chest. His soul was already seeping through. Almighty…if only the rest of them weren’t here. Finn, Scout…they were going to see.

“She made it!” Finn’s voice was nothing but static. A distraction I didn’t need. His human was safe, but I wasn’t here for her. I was here for Cash.

Heat exploded in my chest. The glittering soul was so ready to escape its flesh that it wasn’t even waiting for my blade. Oh, God. This felt wrong.

“I can’t do this,” I said to no one.

You will.

Balthazar’s whispered voice extinguished the heat, the doubt, the reason. All that existed was this moment. This boy. This baffling connection silently blooming between us. I placed my palms over his chest. His soul pushed against my hands and his body shuddered, fighting what I was trying to give back to him.

“Shhh…” I leaned over him, my braids brushing his pale cheeks. “It’s not over for you, Cash. Not yet.” I settled my weight over my palms and pressed the last bit of his soul back into his flesh.

“Anaya!” I flinched at the sound of Scout’s voice. “What in God’s name are you doing? Take him already.”

I didn’t possess one, but in that moment it felt like my heart was in my throat, refusing to let me breathe or speak. I realized that I was giving something back to this boy, but it didn’t feel like it. It felt like I was taking everything away. I tucked a braid behind my ear and watched Cash’s face like it was the last one I’d ever see. He was so beautiful, so still.

A shadow hissed behind me, closing in, looking at the boy beneath me as if he were nothing more than another meal. I leaned in closer to protect him, to lend him my warmth.

“Breathe,” I whispered. “Please, breathe.”

Smoke swirled between us, but even through the darkness I could see the color bleeding back into his lips. His skin. A sliver of breath and smoke slipped through his mouth, and his face contorted in pain. I felt that pain. I felt it to the depths of my soul. He didn’t have to be feeling this. He could be at peace. Instead he was alive. He was…alive. Guilt rushed through me, mixing with the selfish relief I felt at seeing him breathe.

I smoothed the wet hair back from his forehead and leaned down until my lips grazed his ear. Sparks danced across my lips. “I’m so sorry,” I whispered.

“Aren’t you going to take him?” Finn asked from behind me.

Fire crackled around us and I reached out to touch the tip of Cash’s nose. “No. Not this time.”

Before Finn could question me, a fireman rushed in from the hall and scooped Cash up into his arms.

In an instant a flash of cold and light consumed me. I closed my eyes and let it pull me into the sky. Balthazar was calling. When the world went still, I caught myself before I accidentally stumbled over the edge of a valley.

What had I done? My hands shook with the force of my decision. My mistake. The driving force in my existence as a reaper was to take, to reap, to end. For a thousand years, it had come as easy as breathing, and now…I’d denied it. I could still feel his soul on my palms, warm and vibrant. I could smell him all over me, clinging to me like a dream. My scythe burned angrily at my side, wanting the soul we’d been dispatched to take.

“I trust everything went well.”

Balthazar emerged from a shadow and stepped into the muted gray light. I couldn’t look at him. If I looked at him, I’d feel the enormity of what I’d done. Instead, I focused my gaze on the empty gray riverbank of the Inbetween below us, where souls searched for something they’d never find. Home. Their pale faces tilted toward the sky, eyes swirling with impending darkness as they wandered through the forever frozen twilight. Most would soon be shadow-bound, never